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Peter Robinson goes from strength to strength
on 13 October 2008
Since I gave a favourable review to the first of the Banks series, Gallows View, I have read nearly all of the rest of the books in the series. I have enjoyed them all, but this one is by far the best yet.
It marks a new departure in Robinson's style. The preceding novels tend to focus on Banks himself, whereas his viewpoint is one of many in this novel. For the first time, we see a significant part of the action through the eyes of a suspect - Owen Pierce, who is suspected of the murder of a teenage girl. This means we get very little of Banks's family life, and I for one consider this a bonus. When reading a detective novel, I can't muster up much interest in the detectives' relationships, marital problems etc. Not that Robinson overdoes it in his other books, but the passages involving Banks's wife and kids are the ones that I have found least gripping, as a rule.
The other significant departure is that we see Banks and some of his team as rather more brutal than before. They are convinced that they have the right man for the murder, and go well beyond what should be acceptable police procedure to prove it. When they find that Pierce has an edition of Playboy, a dirty video and a copy of Lady Chatterley (!), they treat him as a pervert. In interview they bully him and twist his words until he becomes so confused he starts to contradict himself, to their great delight. This part made for uncomfortable reading, as did Pierce's treatment at the hands of the police while in custody. What Robinson does here is move his police characters away from likeable, dependable, upright types with civilised tastes towards single-minded, inflexible people who don't mind making the evidence fit the suspect rather than, as it should be, the reverse. I lost some respect for the characters due to this but this was clearly intentional - it is an honest portrayal of how many police officers actually behave. Not surprisingly, I was rooting for Owen at the trial - how that turns out is, of couse, for you to read for yourselves.
With Innocent Graves, Robinson has moved ever closer towards realism which is what makes the book so gripping. Better still, he succeeds at this without resorting to the sort of macho posturing so prevalent in many detective novels and cop shows.
I strongly recommend this and find it sad that to date it has so few Amazon reviews in comparison to some of the garbage that clogs up the bestseller lists. Enjoy!